Tag Archives: Babe Ruth

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #30

30 Jan

 

Reddy’s Last Words

When Tom “Reddy” Miller, the catcher for the 1875 St. Louis Brown Stockings, died in May of 1876 (he was, depending on the source, somewhere between 24 and 26 years old at the time of his death), The St. Louis Globe-Democrat noted his handling of pitcher George Bradley:

“The brilliant manner in which the plucky little fellow supported Bradley last season is a matter of record.”

gwbradley

Bradley

Apparently, according to The Chicago Tribune, catching Bradley was the last thing Miller thought about before his death:

“In his last moments he was delirious, and fancied he was at his place in the ball-field, facing his old pitcher, Bradley.  His last words were ‘Two out, Brad—steady, now—he wants a high ball—steady, brad—there, I knew it; that settles it.’”

Altrock on Alexander, 1928

On June 11, 1928, 41-year-old Grover Cleveland Alexander held the Boston Braves to one run on nine hits in an 8 to 1 complete game victory.  Nick Altrock, Washington Senators coach, told The Cleveland News:

“Boston got nine hits off Grover Alexander Monday, but got one run, which is why I claim Alex is the world’s greatest pitcher.  He is as easy to hit as a punching bag, but you can’t knock him off the rope. Alex pitches like a busted chewing gum slot machine.  You keep dropping your nickels in it but no chewing come comes out.”

oldpete

Alexander

Alexander was 16-9 with a 3.36 ERA for the pennant winning St. Louis Cardinals.

Baker’s Homerun Ball, 1911

Frank Baker’s game-tying ninth inning home run off Christy Mathewson in game three of the 1911 World Series quickly became legendary, and people began asking about the whereabouts of the ball.

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Baker

The New York Bureau of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch solved “The great mystery of what became of the ball” three days later:

“In the Brush stadium Tuesday, occupying a seat in the eighth row on the projecting line drawn through home and first, sat Mrs. Charles F. Hunt of 537 West 149th Street.  Her husband Dr. Hunt, is a physician to the Yankees.”

According to the paper, just as Baker connected:

“(S)omeone got up in his seat just ahead of Mrs. Hunt and she could not follow the course of the ball.  The man apparently tried to catch it.

“Then as Mrs. Hunt sat still the ball flattened the left side of her head with a blow on the left temple.”

Despite being dizzy, the paper said Hunt continued watching the game, “pluckily refusing medical attention.”

Hunt also refused to be taken out of the stands, telling her husband:

“I feel so hysterical that if I try to go out, I’m afraid I’ll create a scene.”

After the Athletics won 3 to 2 in 11 innings, Hunt remained in her seat for another hour, and when she finally returned home, the paper said she spent the next 24 hours ill in bed, and “the bump” remained on her head:

“What became of the ball?  Oh, yes. Mrs. Hunt didn’t get it.  The moment it fell from her head to the floor, a youth grabbed it.”

Gehrig on the Greatest “Team man, 1937

Dan Daniel of The New York World Telegram did his part to add to the Babe Ruth/ Lou Gehrig feud in February of 1937—just days after Ruth questioned Gehrig’s consecutive game streaks, calling it “One of the worst mistake a ballplayer could make.”

Daniel visited with Gehrig in his New Rochelle home, and asked readers if the was a “War between” the two.  He said he asked Gehrig to name the all-time greatest player; Gehrig responded

“Honus Wagner the flying Dutchman…I say Wagner because there was a marvelous player who went along doing a grand job without any thought of himself.  He was the team man of all time.”

gehrig

Gehrig

In addition to his snub of Ruth, Gehrig talked about his “greatest thrill” and the best pitcher he ever faced:

“’The greatest thrill of my baseball career?’ Gehrig furnished the reply without a moment’s hesitation. ‘It came when I hit that home run off Carl Hubbell in the third inning of the fourth game of the World Series last October…You don’t hit against very many pitchers like Hubbell in a lifetime and you don’t hit very many homers off the Hubbells in such situations.’ The Iron Horse continued.

“’But the greatest hurler I have seen was not Carl.  My vote goes to Lefty Grove.  When that bird was powdering them in at the top of his form, he was about as terrible a proposition for a hitter as you could imagine, even in a wild nightmare.’”

Spending World Series Shares, 1915

24 Dec

Frank Menke, in his national syndicated reports from Philadelphia and Boston, polled the 1915 World Champion Boston Red Sox who received a winner’s share of $3,779.98 for each player, to find out how their windfall would be spent:

“Whatcha gonna do with it?

‘”Now that you asked,’ spoke up George Foster, a Boston pitching person, ‘I believe I will join J. Pierpont (Morgan) and some of my other fellow millionaires in making that loan to the allies.’

“’I’ll slip mine into an old rock,’ said catcher (Forest ‘Hick’) Cady.  ‘I don’t trust banks.  I knew a banker once who borrowed $10 from me.  He still owes in.’

“’Cady’s experience doesn’t alter my trust in bank,’ said Tris Speaker.  ‘I’ll drag this roll back to Texas with me and put it where I’ve got some more.”’

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Speaker

Dick Hoblitzel and Jack Barry both said they were buying cars.

“Duffy Lewis will use his $3,779.98 in the purchase of a few more orange groves in California, his home state.

“Harry Hooper, also a Californian, will do likewise.”

Menke said Hal Janvrin and Mike McNally “the substitute kid infielders” declined to answer.

“’I’ve been reading so much about how a guy with three thousand copecks can run it up to a million in the stock market.  I’m going to take a chance with an investment—and I may not.’ Said Babe Ruth, the southpaw flinger.”

Heinie Wagner, Ray Collins, and manager Bill Carrigan all said they were buying land; Wagner was purchasing real estate in the Bronx, while Collins and Carrigan were investing in farm land.

carrigan

Carrigan, right

“Vean Gregg, who was a plasterer before he became a pitcher, told about a prosperous plastering business somewhere out on the Pacific Coast he wanted to buy.”

Del Gainer, Pinch Thomas, Olaf Henricksen, Carl Mays, Everett Scott, and Ernie Shore all planned to bank their money.

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Babe Ruth and Ernie Shore

“And when we approached Dutch Leonard, the portside flinger, and the last Red Hosed person in the roundup.

“’How about you?’”

“’Well, I’m gonna spend part of it taking a few more boxing lessons.  Then, when I’m fully conversant with the art of self-defense I’m going out and bust the noses of about two dozen of these ‘sure thing birds’ who want me to invest my money in wild cat schemes.  After that I’ll stow the money in a bank and watch it grow.”’

Lost Advertisements: Designed by Babe Ruth

16 Nov

ruthglove

“Here they are for you fellows,” a 1927 ad for “The Babe Ruth Home Run Specials” from Reach:

“At Last–every fellow who plays ball can have the kind of mitt or glove he’s always wanted.  Not small size, shoddy gloves.  Not the cheap-looking, cheap-wearing kids that go to pieces in a single season.  But Full-sized Big League gloves.”

The Babe Ruth Specials retailed from $3.50 to $5.00  The catcher’s mitt was $8.

“I bet I’ll add a hundred points to my batting average”

24 Oct

Walter “Christy” Walsh was Babe Ruth’s agent and also operated the Christy Walsh Syndicate which employed several well known sportswriters, including Damon Runyon, Bozeman Bulger, and Ford Frick, to ghost write articles for Ruth and other players.

christywalsh.jpg

Christy Walsh

In 1927, an article under Ruth’s byline appeared in several newspapers during the summer of 1927, as Ruth was in the process of hitting 60 home runs:

“Here’s a tip to hitters.

“Take it from one who knows.  There’s no percentage in going up there to the platter and swinging from your heels trying to park the ball over the fence.

“Home run hitting is fine and it gives you a real kick when you smack one, but 99 out of a hundred hitters ruin themselves when they try too hard.”

Ruth, or the Ruth surrogate, compared it to “pressing in golf.”

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Babe Ruth

And he said:

“The real hitter is the chap who steps up there with a short swing and plenty of wrist, and meets the ball.”

Don’t emulate him, he said:

“When you’re trying to improve your hitting take your tip from chaps like Eddie Collins, Joey Sewell, or Ty Cobb.  These fellows have real hitting form.”

Ruth said:

“I get paid for making home runs and hitting balls a long way.  So I have to stay up there swinging.  But if I didn’t, I’d change my form tomorrow.  I’d go up there flat footed like Eddie and Joey and I’d take a short swing instead of a long one.

“I wouldn’t make so many home runs but I bet I’ll add a hundred points to my batting average for the season.”

He concluded the lesson:

“Home runs are pretty things to watch and now and then they win ball games, but the real hitter is the chap who can step up there and get his two singles every game.  He’s the one to take as your example.”

“Baseball is a lot Faster now”

18 Oct

Bill Gleason was the shortstop for three of the four straight American Association champion St. Louis Browns team—he was with the 1885-1887 teams—and, apparently, very superstitious.  After his baseball career ended in 1891, the St. Louis native returned home and became a fire fighter.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, he didn’t spend his later years complaining about how the game wasn’t as good as when he played.

In 1926, the captain of the city’s Engine Company Number 38, sat in the Sportsman’s Park press box for game three of the World Series, and spoke to a reporter from The Post-Dispatch:

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Bill Gleason Fire Captain

“’It’s a fast team, a fast team,’ Gleason repeated again and again as the Cardinals infield worked.  ‘And baseball is a lot faster now than it was when we played it back in the old days.’”

And Gleason was aware of how most of his contemporaries felt:

“’I’m not one of these old codgers who’d tell you there are no times like the old times.  These boys out there are faster than we were, I think, and the game’s gone a long way ahead.  And I wouldn’t like to say we had any players quite up to the big fellow out there,’ waving a hand toward ‘Babe’ Ruth who was emerging from the Yankee dugout.”

Gleason noted that while his three Browns teams “were champions of the world,” he said they were not as great as the current Cardinals:

“’This man (Jesse) Haines who pitched today is a wonder.  He had everything, speed, curves, and absolute control (Haines shut the Yankees out on five hits in a game delayed by rain for 30 minutes during the fourth inning)…Sometimes it seems to me that we don’t have the pitching now that we used to, but Haines certainly furnished it for us today.  He puts me in mind of old Tim Keefe of the New York team.  He was a great pitcher in my day.”

But Gleason was even more impressed with the Cardinals infield:

“’Then there’s that double play combination.  (Tommy) Thevenow to (Rogers) Hornsby to (Jim) Bottomley.  Thevenow is lightening fast, Hornsby’s play is as smooth as silk, and Bottomley is just a beauty.”

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Gleason, 1886

Gleason said Hornsby’s play at second reminded him of his Browns teammate Yank Robinson:

“’(He) handled himself a lot like Hornsby.  You didn’t realize how fast he was moving. He worked so easily.’”

Gleason said the Cardinals had better hitting than his Browns and said of outfielder Billy Southworth:

“’He’s like Curt Welch, the center fielder of the Browns.  Goes back on a fly ball and gets set for it just like old Curt did.  And (catcher Bob) O’Farrell is a lot like Doc Bushong of the Browns—steady and dependable.’”

Gleason also talked about how the 1926 incarnation of Sportsman’s Park differed from the first version which hosted the 1886 world’s championship against the Chicago White Stockings:

“’In those days,’ he said, ‘the grounds were laid out so that we batted from Grand Avenue, and what is now home plate was then left field. “

Gleason said the following season, when the Browns again played the White Stockings in a post series, that the decision to make the series a “winner take all” for the gate money was Albert G. Spalding’s idea:

“’(Browns owner) Chris von der Ahe (wanted to) split the gate.  (Spalding) said he would play only on the basis of winner take all and we played on that agreement.  The Browns won the series four games to two.  We won the last three games here, and I think it’s likely the Cardinals will do the same thing.”

His prognostication was off—the Cardinals dropped the next two games to the Yankees, but did come back to win the final two to take the World Series in seven games.

Gleason remained with the St. Louis fire department until his death at age 73 in 1932—there was general confusion about Gleason’s age at the time of his death, The Post-Dispatch said “Records vary to his age but he was about 70,” The St. Louis Star and Times and The Associated Press said he was 66.

The Post-Dispatch said he was recovering from an infection he got from stepping on a nail at a fire, when “he insisted on going down to the corner drug store.  On the way home he collapsed from the heat and never left his bed again.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking Up Other Things #24

1 Aug

Pitching to Ruth

According to the International News Service, during a discussion before a game in 1919, Frank Baker was talking to his Yankees teammates about “the days when batters demanded the sort of delivery they could hit best.”

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Babe Ruth

The players agreed:

“If that rule were in force in the present day the outfielders would have to be mounted on motorcycles, and Muddy Ruel said that the playing field would have to be as big as the parade grounds at old Camp Pike, where he was at officers training camp.

Just imagine Babe Ruth coming up with the bases filled and a hit needed if he had the privilege of demanding a fastball waist high.  The question of how to pitch to him under such conditions was placed in open discussion.  Ping Bodie solved it.  ‘I’d get back on second base, throw the ball and then duck,’ said Ping.”

Negotiating with Murphy

When it was first rumored that Fred Mitchell would step down as president of the Chicago Cubs in the summer of 1919, there was speculation that Charles Webb Murphy might return to the club as president (Bill Veeck Sr. was ultimately given the position)

Hearing word of Murphy’s possible return, Johnny Evers told The Sporting News what it was like to negotiate a contract with Murphy after the team’s back to back World Series wins in 1907 and 1908:

charlesmurphy

Charles Webb Murphy

“We had made lots of money for the Cubs and certainly expected owner Murphy to give us a big boost in salary.  I received my contract, gave it the once over and returned it to C.W. with the curt reply that I thought I deserved more money for my labors.

“It was not a big salary,  In fact, the sum mentioned was so small that if I were to tell you the amount it would shock you.  Mr. Murphy was shrewd enough to get around my request for a raise.  His reply was to the effect that I might deserve more money, but should be satisfied to work for the amount he mentioned in view of the fact that I had such wonderful stars to help me as Frank Chance on my left and Joe Tinker on my right.

“Joe Tinker also protested against the figures mentioned in his contract that year and the crafty Mr. Murphy’s reply to him was that he should be satisfied to play for almost anything since he was teamed up with such stars as (Harry) Steinfeldt on his right, Evers on his left and Frank Chance at first base.  There was no way to get around an argument like that, and when the season opened Tinker and I were playing at the original figures offered by chubby Charley.”

Arguing with Browning

The Louisville Courier-Journal recalled in 1908 an incident “When Pete Browning played with the Louisville club.”

Browning, said the paper, was “no prize beauty…still he was sensitive regarding his un-Apollo like appearance and would get angry in a moment if any allusion was made to his lack of pulchritude.”

petebrowning

Pete Browning

During a game in Cincinnati, umpire John Gaffney called Browning out on strikes.

 “The big fellow rushed up the umpire roaring like a toreador stuck bull.  But John Gaffney was afraid of no living man, and he ruled the field with a rod of iron, but he was also a reasonable man and would explain his decisions.  However, Pete would listen to no explanations.  Finally, Gaffney became angry, and walking up to Browning, he shook his finger in his face and said:

“’I would like to have a photograph of your face, Browning.’

“’And for why,’ shot back Pete, who was taken wholly by surprise, and began to color up when allusion was made to his face.

“’Why, I have a chicken farm back home,’ said Gaffney, ‘and I would like to put your picture in the coop so as to frighten eggs out of the hens.’”

Lost Pictures–1924 House of David

26 Apr

hod

A 1924 promotional photo of the House of David baseball team, from the Israelite House of David, the Adventist sect based in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  The photo was distributed to Midwest newspapers during the barnstorming team’s tour that season.

Promotional materials promised, “Some wonderful baseball players are on the House of David team,” including Jess Tally, “The bearded Babe Ruth.”  And “Cookie Hannaford the phenomenal first sacker.  “The team claimed Tally had hit 34 home runs in 132 games in 1923, and 11 through the team’s first 31 games of 1924.

 

tally

Tally

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Hannaford

The team always claimed that several members of the club, “Rejected major league jobs, refusing to clip their whiskers.”

Dick Jess, who had managed Babe Ruth’s 1921 barnstorming tour, was the promoter for the House of David tour, and described the team as:

“Bewhiskered, barberless, shaveless baseballists, and foes of the barber trust.”

“I Haven’t Heard of any Club Owners Refusing to accept the Patronage of Colored People”

24 Apr

Damon Runyon called Dan Parker, “The most consistency brilliant of all sportswriters.”

Parker wrote a column and was sports editor of The New York Daily Mirror from 1926 until the paper folded in 1963.

 

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Dan Parker

 

Parker often used his column, “Broadway Bugle” to agitate for change in sports.  He crusaded against fixed wrestling matches, disreputable “Racetrack touts,” and the influence of organized crime in boxing—these columns led to several investigations, the disbanding of the corrupt International Boxing Club, and several criminal convictions, including Frankie Carbo, a member of the Lucchese crime family.

Parker was also an early crusader for the integration of professional baseball.  In 1933, Parker lent his name and influence to The Pittsburgh Courier’s “Crusade for comments from baseball celebrities” who supported integration.

Parker wrote to Chester Washington, The Courier’s sports editor:

“I don’t see why the mere accident of birth should prove a bar to the Negro baseball players who aspire to places in organized baseball.  I haven’t heard of any club owners refusing to accept the patronage of colored people. Rutgers didn’t draw any color line when Paul Robeson proved himself the best man for the place he was fighting for on the football team.  The All-American selectors didn’t go into a huddle about Paul’s complexion when they picked him for a place on the mythical eleven, football’s highest honor.

 

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Paul Robeson

 

“The U.S. Olympic Committee didn’t consider Eddie Tolan’s or Ralph Metcalfe’s lineage when they were picking the strongest sprinting team possible for last summer’s games.  If the Negro athlete is accepted without question in college football and amateur track and field events, which are among the higher types of sports, I fail to see why baseball, which is as much a business as it is a sport, should draw the line.

“In my career as a sports writer, I have never encountered a colored athlete who didn’t conduct himself in a gentlemanly manner and who didn’t have a better idea of sportsmanship than many of his white brethren.  By all means, let the Negro ballplayer play in organized baseball.  As a kid, I saw a half dozen Cuban players break into organized baseball in the old Connecticut League.  I refer to players like (Armando) Marsans, (Rafael) Alameda, (Al) Cabrera and others (Almeida, Marsans, and Cabrera played with the New Britain Perfectos in the Connecticut State League in 1910). I recall the storm of protest from the One Hundred Per Centers at that time but I also recall that all the Cubans conducted themselves in such a manner that they reflected nothing but credit on themselves and those who favored admitting them to baseball’s select circle.

“The only possible objection I can find to lifting the color line in baseball is that the Yankees might then lose their great mascot.  I refer to my good friend, (Bill) “Bojangles” Robinson, who chased away the Yankee jinx last season with his famous salt-shaker. The Yanks didn’t draw the color line on their World Series special to Chicago for Bill accompanied us on the trip.  On the way back, at every town where we stopped for a few minutes, the crowd hollered for Babe Ruth. Babe would make an appearance and then introduce Bojangles who would tell a few stories, go into his dance and make the fans forget about baseball as he ‘shuffled off to Buffalo.’

 

bojangles

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson

 

“I read your paper every week and find your sports pages well edited and thoroughly enjoyable.”

Parker’s letter was released shortly after Heywood Broun of The New York World-Telegram made waves at the 1933 Baseball Writers Association dinner when he said:

“I can see no reason why Negroes should not come into the National and American Leagues.”

Broun and Parker were joined by another prominent sports writer, Gordon Mackay, who had been sports editor at three Philadelphia papers—The Enquirer, The Press and The Public Ledger—who wrote to The Courier:

“I believe that there are scores of Negroes who would make good in the big minors and in the majors.  Take some of the men I used to know—John Henry Lloyd, Rube Foster, Big (Louis) SantopPhil Cockrell, Biz Mackey and others—why, Connie Mack or the Phillies would have been strengthened with any of them on the best teams they ever had.”

The Courier’s Washington was hopeful that the sentiments of three powerful sportswriters would have some impact:

“Fair-minded and impartial writers like Broun, Mackey, and Parker can do much towards breaking down the barricaded doors of opportunity to capable colored ballplayers which lead into the greatest American game’s charmed circle.  And we doff our derby to ‘em.”

Lost Pictures–Ty Cobb’s “Outburst of Historic Art”

30 Sep

After the 1916 season, Ty Cobb spent four weeks on Long Island shooting the first feature film starring a major league ballplayer.

The story for “Somewhere in Georgia” was written by Grantland Rice, then of The New York Tribune.

Ty Cobb and leading lady Elsie MacLeod

Ty Cobb and leading lady Elsie MacLeod

Rice said of the film:

“For the matter of twelve years Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the first citizen of Georgia, has proved that when it comes to facing pitchers he has no rival…It may have been that facing such pitchers as (Ed) Walsh, (Walter) Johnson, (Babe) Ruth and others has acclimated Ty to facing anything under the sun, even a moving picture camera.  At any rate, when Director George Ridgewell, of the Sunbeam Motion Picture Company, lined Ty up in various attitudes before the camera he was astounded at the way the star ballplayer handled the job.

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

“These paragraphs should be enough to break the news gently that Cobb, wearying of competition with (Tris) Speaker, (Joe) Jackson and (Eddie) Collins through so many years, has decided to go out and give battle to Douglas Fairbanks and Francis X. Bushman.  Not for any extended campaign, but for just one outburst of historic art.”

Director George Ridgeway said of his star:

“The most noticeable thing about Cobb’s work was this:  I’ve never had to tell him more than once what I wanted done.  I had an idea that I would have to take half my time drilling him for various scenes in regard to expression and position. But, on the contrary, he seemed to have an advance hunch as to what was wanted, and the pictures will show that as a movie star Ty is something more than a .380 hitter.  In addition to this, he is a horse plus and elephant for work. Twelve hours a day is nothing to him, and when the rest of us are pretty well worn out Cobb is ready for the next scene. I believe the fellow could work twenty hours a day for a week and still be ready for overtime.”

Rice noted that Cobb balked at just thing during the filming:

“Ty was willing enough to engage in mortal combat with anywhere from two to ten husky villains.  He was willing enough ti dive headfirst for the plate or to jump through a window, but when it came to one of our best known pastimes, lovemaking, he balked with decided abruptness.

“Despite the attractiveness and personal appeal of the heroine, Miss Elsie MacLeod, Ty was keen enough to figure ahead, not what the spectators might think of it, but what Mrs. Tyrus Raymond Cobb of Augusta think. The love making episode, therefore, while more or less thickly interspersed, had to be handled in precisely the proper way to meet Ty’s bashful approval”

The "bashful" star

The “bashful” star

The New York Tribune claimed that “More than 100 motion picture scenarios” were presented to Cobb before he agreed to appear in Rice’s.  The paper said, “(H)e would not, he emphatically stated, appear in anything that was not compatible with both his dignity and his standing in the baseball world.”

The Ty Cobb character in “Somewhere in Georgia” is a bank clerk who plays ball for the local baseball team—he, along with the bank’s cashier are vying for the love of  the banker’s daughter.  Cobb is scouted and offered a contract by the Detroit Tigers but the banker’s daughter tells him he must choose between baseball and her.  At the same time, the cashier, Cobb’s rival for the banker’s daughter, bets against the home team and plots to have Cobb kidnapped by “a gang of thugs.”

Cobb accosted by thugs

Cobb accosted by thugs

After being held hostage in a cabin, Cobb escapes with the help of “a local farm boy,” and:

”Commandeering a mule team, Ty succeeds in reaching home just in time to make a spectacular play and save the game for his team.  He then turns the tables on the cashier, wins the girl and winds things up in a manner appealing to ball fans and picture fans alike.”

Cobb escaping with the aid of a local farm boy.

Cobb escaping with the aid of a local farm boy.

Billed in advertisements as “A thrilling drama of love and baseball in six innings,” no prints of the six-reel film survive, but Cobb received better reviews than most of his brethren who attempted a film career.

After the film’s release in 1917, The Tribune said:

“(A)s an actor Ty Cobb is a huge success.  In fact, he is so good that he shows all the others (in the cast) up.”

When the film premiered at the Detroit Opera House in August of 1917 The Detroit Free Press said:

Ad for the film in Detroit

Ad for the film in Detroit

“(The film) is not only a most interesting baseball picture, but it gives views of “The Georgia Peach” that one does not see at Navin Filed…One seldom gets a chance to take a peep at Ty in civilian clothes and he shows himself to be as much at home in this story of love and romance into which a few baseball surroundings have been woven as he is on the diamond.  He makes a pleasing film hero, wooing and winning the bank president’s daughter and performing other exploits that one would expect from Douglas Fairbanks and his like.”

“Tell the Babe to Choke Up on his Bat”

15 Aug

While Babe Ruth kept a low profile—or as low a profile as he could—in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and occasionally New York, during the winter of 1922, he received hitting advice from Christy Mathewson.

Ruth struggled—at least for Ruth, 35/96/.315—all season after starting the year suspended by Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis for barnstorming during the 1921 off-season.

Babe Ruth

Ruth

Mathewson was in New York in December promoting the sale of “Christmas Seals for the aid of others stricken with tuberculosis.”  He talked to Thomas Cummiskey, writer for the Universal Service syndicate:

“’Tell the Babe to choke up on his bat a little when pitchers start tossing slow balls at him next season, and to smash some of the floaters into left field.  If he does, he’ll cross up a plan to stop his home run hitting.”

Cummiskey noted that the New York Giants pitchers shut Ruth down during the 1922 World Series—Ruth was 2 for 17 with 1 RBI—because they “slow-balled him to death.”

As for Mathewson:

“(He) saw the series, the first games he witnessed in two years because of his battle with tuberculosis that kept him at Saranac Lake.  As always, he was a close observer of everything.

“Once he says he saw Ruth choke up on his bat, instead of making his ‘follow-through’ swing at the ball for a homer, and cross up the Giants by hitting the ball to left field.

“’He should do this every time a slow ball comes up,’ Matty declares.  ‘Next season, it is a 100 to 1 shot, the American League pitchers will try to stop his home run hitting with slow balls.  If Babe chokes up a little, as I saw him do once in the series, he’ll hit them, it’s a cinch.  Then the next thing you know, the pitchers will stop throwing them.’“

Cummiskey said:

“Matty paid Ruth the compliment of ‘being a natural ball player and wise enough to realize this.’  The tip was given for ‘old time’s sake.’  Matty wants the Babe to stay in the spotlight and ‘hit them out as of old.’”

Cummiskey asked Mathewson if he felt “Use of the ‘lively ball,’ and the fact that pitchers are not permitted to rough the surface of a shiny new ball (was) tough on the pitchers.”

Mathewson, 1922

Mathewson, 1922

Mathewson said:

“Well, yes it is.  It is tough to see the ball banged out of the lot and around so much.  But they can learn how to pitch it.  They did when it came to Babe, didn’t they?”

He also said, “(I)n the old days if a batter swung like the home run leaders of the present day they would be fined.”

As for Mathewson’s health:

“Outwardly, he is robust and healthy.  He weighs 210 pounds, has a healthy color, his hand clasp is strong, his eyes clear.  Occasionally he is allowed to smoke a cigarette, but not to inhale.  Except for a slight slowness in his walk, as he tires easily, he appears ‘fine.’

‘’I haven’t a touch of T.B. anymore,’ he said.  “The X-ray and the stethoscope reveal no signs of it.  I am now a full exercise man; I can exercise all I want.  Until a few weeks ago I was restricted to twenty minutes a day.’

“He tires more easily than a man of his outwardly fine condition would indicate because he ‘has to get along on one cylinder as yet.’  This, he explained means that ‘one lung is flat but is receiving air treatment which is expected to make it function.’”

Ruth, of course, bounced back just fine from his disappointing 1922 season and World Series.  He hit .393 with 41 home runs and 130 RBIs and hit .368 with three home runs in the Yankees’ World Series victory over the Giants.

Mathewson did not bounce back from tuberculosis and died on the disease in 1925.